6 Unforgettable Day Trips from Darwin
After spending a couple of days exploring Darwin city, we suggest you set aside some time and choose one of these best day trips from Darwin to experience more of the top-end magic.
Darwin isn’t exactly on the radar of most travellers. Yet, people who want to experience the best that Australia has to offer usually end up there. That’s because Darwin is the gateway to the Northern Territory and all the stark, ancient landscapes that the state offers.
So rent a car or check out one of the recommended tours below and see more on your visit.
Kakadu National Park
Kakadu has to be on any list of the best day trips from Darwin. It’s the largest national park in Australia and stretches over nearly 20,000 square kilometres (7,722 square miles) of land.
The stark, harsh landscape is a UNESCO World Heritage Site filled with waterfalls, rainforest, birds and wildlife both shy and deadly, and some of the best Aboriginal rock art in the country.
What to see in Kakadu
Located around 1hour and 40 minutes drive from the city, a trip to Kakadu makes for one of the best day tours from Darwin. Here’s what to see and do while you’re there:
- Visit Nadab Lookout at sunset for the most stunning views possible.
- Follow the Nourlangie Rock Art Walk to experience the history and culture.
- Hike the rocky trail to Jim Jim Falls.
- Go for a swim in the pristine Maguk Gorge.
- Join a day tour from Darwin to pack as much into the experience as possible.
Recommended Kakadu Day Tours
Kakadu, Nourlangie and Yellow Waters Tour
This one day tour from Darwin is exhausting, but if you have limited time, it’s your best option for seeing this amazing UNESCO site. The tour includes visiting Nourlangie Rock, a cruise on the Yellow River to meet the local crocs. After lunch, visit Warradjan Aboriginal Centre and learn the history of the area.
If you can stay longer, do one of these multi-day tours. We did the 3-day tour, and it was brilliant.
Located about 90 minutes from Darwin, Litchfield National Park is one of Darwin’s more manageable day trips. It’s a smaller park with a loop road that passes by all the best attractions and has many places to stop and take in the scenery. You’ll still get the fantastic landscape, varied wildlife, and great outdoor activities in this park. It’s just on a smaller, more manageable scale.
What to see in Litchfield
When you visit Litchfield National Park on one of your Darwin day trips, here’s what to see and do:
- Stop off to admire the Florence and Wangi Falls and their crystal-clear pools.
- Visit the sandstone pillars and termite mounds of the Lost City.
- Go for a swim at Buley Rockhole.
- Test yourself on the Walker Creek Walk, which is part of the 39km Tabletop Track.
- Stay out of the water in the wet season unless you want to get eaten by crocs!
Recommended Litchfield Day Tours
There are dozens of operators who sell tours to Litchfield, but we highly recommend you choose a company that offers small group sizes and are eco-certified. Two we recommend are:
Litchfield National Park Full-Day Safari from Darwin
This tour is run by Wayoutback Safaris, who have offered tours in the Northern Territory since 1999. I first travelled with them back in 2002 and had a brilliant time. Since then, everyone who we have recommended to them has felt the same way. We are due to go again later this year.
This 11.5 hour day tour takes a maximum of 27 travellers and includes a BBQ lunch and hiking and swimming. Visit Florence Falls, Wangi Falls and Buley Rockhole. You will also see the impressive termite mounds that the area is famous for.
Darwin: Premium Litchfield Regional Small Group Day Tour
If you prefer a smaller group, then this premium tour from ethical NT. You visit the same places as the tour above but with the addition of Berry Springs and Batchelor. Each trip includes a maximum of 11 guests and an average of only eight. The included lunch is BBQ barramundi, and there are plenty of healthy treats along the way.
Local tip: If you want to stay overnight in the area, consider Litchfield Safari Camp.
Other Litchfield options
Nitmiluk National Park
Nitmiluk National Park is around three hours drive from the city, making it one of Darwin’s more isolated day trips. If you’re heading out to this area, you might want to stay the night. The park will reward you for that because there’s so much to do there that a single day could never be enough.
What to see in Nitmiluk National park and Katherine
When this park is one of your Darwin day tours, here’s what to do there:
- Marvel at the beauty of the Nitmiluk Gorge as well as the Aboriginal artwork that decorates its walls.
- Take a sunset or sunrise cruise to see the gorge in its best light.
- Cruise or canoe in Katherine Gorge with its fantastic sandstone walls and rock art.
- Go swimming at Edith Falls, one of the few crocodile free places in the Northern Territory.
- Go camping in the idyllic grasslands around Edith Falls.
- Walk the Jatbula Trail or the 2.6km Leliyn Trail.
Tours to Nitmiluk and Katherine
Many of the tours from Darwin to Nitmiluk are multiday offerings and include Kakadu over 3-5 days. For a one day option, you are looking at a 14 hour day. You will visit the gorges of the Nitmiluk National Park and take a 2-hour cruise, have a chance to swim in the waterhole at Edith Falls and even make a brief stop at the town of Katherine.
If the idea of 14 hours is a bit much or you prefer to travel in style, and you have a budget to match, a tour includes a scenic flight from Darwin, a chopper ride over the 13 gorges a 2-hour cruise. This tour with Kookaburra air runs for 8 hours.
Fishing in Darwin is almost an extreme sport. Any time you’re near the water, you have to be aware of the danger of crocodiles. And that’s half the fun, isn’t it?
If you enjoy fishing and want to include it in your day trips from Darwin, then you’ll have a lot of choices. You can fish for freshwater fish like Barramundi or Saratoga or take a tour offshore and try saltwater fish like Coral Trout, Jewfish, and Golden Snapper.
What’s certain is that you’ll have a great time when you include this in your day tours from Darwin. And you might be able to have a great meal afterwards too.
Where are the best places to fish in Darwin
Some of the best areas to fish near Darwin are:
- Bayview Marina, where you can catch Mangrove Jack or Golden Snapper.
- Fisherman’s Wharf for Barramundi.
- The Daly River, which offers fishing charters and a two-week fishing competition in the dry season.
- Dripstone Cliffs, where you can catch bream and whiting in the dry season.
- Rapid Creek Foodbridge, for Barramundi.
- Shady Camp, a human-made weir in the Mary River National Park.
- Or you can take a fishing tour offshore and see what you can catch!
Darwin Fishing Tours
Freshwater or Saltwater Barramundi Fishing Day Trip from Darwin
Fishing tours don’t come cheap however you do get an experienced fishing guide, all your equipment, lunch, transfers and a chance to catch some delicious barramundi.
The Tiwi Islands include two main islands Bathurst and Melville, located 80km north of Darwin. If you want to experience the traditional Aboriginal way of life and culture, this is one of the best day trips from Darwin.
The people on the islands are of Aboriginal descent, and while you’re there, you can take cultural tours, wildlife tours and examine the traditional artwork created by the locals.
What to see in the tiwi Islands
Here’s what to do when you include these islands in your Darwin day trips:
- Head to the Tiwi Design Art Centre to see traditional arts and crafts.
- Do a cultural tour and meet the locals.
- Go fishing off the islands.
- Take a tour and watch the locals create their traditional arts and crafts.
The islands are a 40 min flight or a 2-hour ferry ride from Darwin, and tours that travel via ferry is about half the cost of those that include flights.
Must know: You can only visit the Tiwi Islands as part of a tour or by the invitation of a local who must sponsor your permit.
Tours to the Tiwi Islands
Tiwi Islands Cultural Day Tour from Darwin by Sealink Ferry
This full-day tour includes 4.5 hours on the island plus travel time via ferry. After a welcome ceremony, you will tour the island with a local guide, visit the Tiwi Museum and historic mission precinct. After lunch, join a cultural art session and, with some assistance, create a souvenir to take home.
You can’t leave Darwin without seeing some of its most iconic animals. Getting up close and personal with koalas, possums, dingoes, wallabies, kangaroos, crocodiles, and hundreds of bird species is one of the best things about day trips from Darwin.
You have endless opportunities for wildlife tours from Darwin, including:
What type of animals can you see in and near Darwin
Crocodiles spotting and bird watching are the most popular wildlife tours in the top end. There is a huge range of experiences available, but the most popular ones include.
- Wetland cruises where you can gawk at crocs and birds up close.
- Adelaide River Tours.
- Bird watching in Kakadu or Katherine Gorge.
- Helicopter tours over the major parks.
- Turtle tours where you watch the babies make their way to the ocean.
Recommended wildelife and nature tours
As a laidback coastal town, Darwin doesn’t seem like the kind of destination that attracts lots of travellers. Yet as the gateway to the Northern Territory, it’s one of the best ways to see and experience the harsh beauty of Australia’s outback. So, the next time you’re in the area, make sure you head out on some of the best days trips from Darwin to see what all the fuss is about.
Have you seen our top 10 things to do in Darwin?
First Published March 2020, updated May 2021